How to Catch Snakehead: Complete Guide

May 21, 2020

How to Catch Snakehead: Complete Guide

Snakeheads have gotten a lot of bad press in recent years. Originally from Asia and Africa, they were introduced to US waters in the early 2000s. Since then they have rapidly expanded into the Potomac River and parts of Florida. They look very similar to mudfish and live in the same type of habitat.

While we definitely don’t support the introduction of invasive species, we do think there is some good that comes of the snakehead situation. It turns out they are ferocious predatory fish and are a ton of fun to catch!

So how do you catch snakehead? We’ve spent hours researching the best ways to catch snakehead in both the Potomac and Florida swamp. Turns out they love many types of bass lures you already have. If you’ve caught largemouth bass before, your most likely close to being ready to catch snakehead. 

In this article, we’ll briefly cover what Snakehead are, how they got to the United States. The tackle needed to fish for snakehead, and the best techniques for catching them. So strap in, it’s time to learn how to catch snakehead!

What Are Snakehead?

Snakehead are a type of freshwater fish that are long and skinny – sort of resembling a snake. They also are often spotted and have scales similar to those of a python. The reason they’re called snakehead, however, is because some species have a bright spot on their tail that they use to fool predators. They flash their tail when intimidated to mimic a larger fish or snake.

Most types of snakehead grow to several feet long and over 15 lbs. Snakehead are voracious predators and eat all sorts of water creatures. Frogs, insects, baitfish, and mice are common prey for snakehead. Adult snakeheads mate up to 5 times a year and can lay over 150,000 eggs. Combining this with their appetite for pretty much anything makes them especially dangerous to introduce to new habitats.

Snakehead received a lot of bad publicity in the early 2000s when they were introduced to the Potomac from a pond in Crofton, Maryland. No one has stepped forward as to who introduced them, but over the past 20 years their population has exploded in the Potomac and in Florida. While initially considered an ecological disaster, the introduction of snakeheads has proven to not be as damaging as other species (like the Asian carp)

Tackle Needed for Snakehead

So you’ve decided it’s time to catch some snakehead. Lucky for you, many types of medium tackle will work well for snakehead. We recommend using a bass spinning reel or a medium-sized baitcasting reel paired with a medium-sized spinning rod or crankbait rod. As far as the type of line, we think that either 8 to 15 lb braided line with a monofilament leader or +10 lb monofilament works great. Use a similar fishing line setup as you would for big bass. Snakehead have a harder mouth than bass so the amount of pressure required to set the hook is more. This is also true with mudfish.

Don’t forget to bring a pair of fishing pliers too – snakehead have rows of razor-sharp teeth in the back of their mouths that make removing a hook dangerous. This is an important part of knowing how to catch snakehead.

Best Snakehead Lures

As with bass, snakehead are natural-born predators. They love the same types of lures and go after similar types of presentations. The Texas RigCarolina Rig, and Wacky Worm Rig all work well when fishing for snakehead. For more on how to catch snakehead with these lures, check out the in-depth article we’ve written. The same techniques that work for bass work well for snakehead.

We’ve also have seen lots of success with topwater lures, especially lures that imitate frogs and small rodents. The added bonus with these topwater frog lures is that they often have their hooks covered. As you’ll soon learn, snakehead love to live in water that has lots of weeds and cover. This makes using traditional spinning lures and Rapala impossible.

As far as the topwater frog presentation goes, try and imitate the action a frog makes when it swims across a body of water. Cast the lure past where you think the snakehead are hiding, then flip the lure a couple of feet at a time past them. Make it seem like its jumping. When a snakehead hits your lure, it’ll look just like a bass. Do the exact same thing you would do if a bass took your lure – give the line a firm jerk to set the hook.

Live bait also works great for snakehead. If you have access to a local fishing shop, try and buy either Golden Shiners or shad for snakehead.

Where do Snakehead Live?

The next step in how to catch snakehead is to find them. Snakehead love to hang out in the shallow parts of still water with lots of weed cover. This keeps them out of the sun and is where many of their prey like to hang out. As you approach the body of water you plan on fishing, do not stomp or make a ton of noise. Snakehead spook easily and can feel the vibrations of heavy movement. Focus on casting your lures parallel to the bank to optimize you retrieval through the shallower parts of the water.

Underwater logs and overhanging trees also make great areas to fish for snakehead. They enjoy hanging out near logs for protection and to surprise their prey. If you’ve fished an area for 15 minutes and haven’t gotten a bite, move on. Since they aren’t schooling fish, if you catch one in one location move on to find more. 

Fishing the Potomac

The mecca for northern snakehead, the stretch of the Potomac from Washington to the Bay has the highest density of the fish. The surrounding creeks, coves, and stiller water areas are the best places to start. You should also check out Leesylvania State Park, Potomac Creek, and Chickamuxen Creek.

Fishing in Florida

The C14 Canal in Broward County has the largest population of snakehead in Florida. Markham Park is another great spot to try first. Another popular canal that is known to have snakehead is the Hillsboro Canal. As with the Potomac, look for portions of water where the current is minimal. Heavy vegetation and cover are also great places to look for snakehead.

When to Fish For Snakehead

Like bass, snakehead can be fished for no matter the season. They are known to be more aggressive in the spring and summer months, but the farther south you go the more they eat year-round. Snakehead in Florida will bite pretty much any time of year.

Final Thoughts

Snakehead can be an extremely fun fish to catch. It’s not uncommon to hook into a 15 lb fish in water that’s only a few feet deep. They attack lures you present to them with such fury that it’s something you won’t soon forget. We hope after reading this article you now know how to catch snakehead like a pro. 

Happy Hunting!

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